On memory and reality

My little brother sent me some short videos this week.
It went like this: he transferred VHS tapes to a DVD. Then he played the videos from the DVD on his computer, and filmed the monitor with his iPhone. Then he sent me the iPhone videos via a social media site, and I forwarded them to my family.
The quality of the videos was of course poor; not only were the original tapes nearly 30 years old, each step transferring, copying and refilming degraded them further.
And yet: they were still superior to my own memories of the events — a visit we paid to my family in the United States when our oldest daughter was one year old.
Alpha and I are now older than my parents are in the videos.
The house in which we sing Happy Birthday has since burned in an arson fire, and then been torn down to make way for a mall parking lot.
Some details were only slightly surprising: Beta is a serious baby in the video. I remember that she was a serious baby, but she was even more serious than I recall.
Some details contradicted our memories entirely: for 30 years, we have told Beta she never crawled, just went straight from rolling to walking. But in the video she crawls just fine. She was a fast crawler, chasing my parents’ wiener dog all over the living room.
To be honest, the videos freaked me out a little.
The speed at which time passes, for one thing. How people just die, two people from the video, for example, but time just keeps going.
But we know that. What really freaked me out was how the evidence contradicted our memories. I know I forget things. We all forget things. I know I have forgotten most of my life, when it comes down to it. But to see blurry, grainy but genuine evidence that even the little bit I remember is false, that’s freaky.
It’s one thing to read somewhere that memory is nothing but stories we tell ourselves, and that any particular memory is altered to a greater or lesser extent with each re-telling, but to actually see the proof like that makes you wonder what else you’re wrong about.
What grudges you’d be better off dropping.
What pain you could let go.

Made for walking

As an experiment (to determine the effects, if any, on my health, weight and mind), I am maximizing my daily walking and using two different apps to monitor my steps and am battling someone named Inga for first place among the (10) commuters to Vienna using one of the apps. I generally now get off the subway a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way, depending on weather. Or eschew public transport entirely and just walk, depending on available time and distance.

Also, this morning, in order to save the environment, I got dressed in the dark and put on my squeaky shoes by accident.

Goofy’s Backyard Debacle

Disn3y scriptwriter 1: (Drains martini, lights a new cigarette from still-smoldering butt of last one, glances around lunchtime crowd at bar, returns script to scriptwriter 2) It’s not that I don’t like it. I love it. It’s hilarious.
Scriptwriter 2 (Snubs out his own cigarette in ashtray): But…
Scriptwriter 1: Go ahead and pitch it to Him if you want. But he’s not going to like it. Put a phony name on it and pitch it to Hanna-Barbera – I can totally see something like that happening to Tom, you know what I mean? You can pitch it to Him if you want, but if you do he’s gonna say…

(Cut to new scene, in W4lt Disn3y’s office)
W4lt: …it’s not realistic enough!
Scriptwriter 2: With all due respect, Mr. Disn3y…
W4lt (to blonde boy sitting on his desk): Give us some fire, Timmy. (Timmy light’s W4lt’s cigar with teapot-shaped lighter) Tell me, Timmy, do you like Collie dogs? (Turns back to Scriptwriter 2) Okay maybe I missed something. Walk me through it again. You have a minute (looks at watch).
Scriptwriter 2: It’s a Goofy cartoon, Mr. Disn3y! Realism is not in the nature of a talking dog!
W4lt (looks at watch): Fifty seconds.
Scriptwriter 2 (Holds hands up as if framing a shot): Goofy’s Backyard Debacle. Goofy is barbecuing. I dunno, like his wife has invited people over. Important people, of course, to raise the stakes.
Timmy: Ah! High-stake barbecue, I like it. Get it? Barbecued stakes? (The others ignore him)
Scriptwriter 2: Goofy’s nervous. His old grill didn’t get hot enough and so he got a new, bigger one that he’s still figuring out, reading instructions et cetera. Oh and BTW Goofy has long white hair and a bushy white beard.
W4lt: Why.
Scriptwriter 2: It’s necessary to the… dramaturgy. Maybe he’s a wizard or something. Anyway. He tries the new grill and it doesn’t get hot at first either because it’s using this new system with hot and cooler zones right, and for the life of him he can’t get it to go over 500F/260C, if that and his steaks just don’t cook right and he’s getting frantic so the big day comes…
W4lt: Wizard. Okay. I like it.
Timmy: I like it too!
Scriptwriter 2: …the big day comes and he goes for broke and like just fills the grill up with charcoal and lights it and it gets hot as hell. Like, he puts on the lid and the thermometer needle goes all the way around, past 600F/315C, all the way back to zero. So it’s hot. And Goofy is like, uhoh. And he cooks in this order: vegetables, sausages, ribs, steaks last. And it takes, like, a minute per vegetable. He just throws them on and basically they immediately turn black and he takes them back off. Same with the sausages. Black. And he’s desperately trying to find a cooler corner of the grill to move them to but the heat of the coals singes the hair off his arm whenever he tries to move them and he’s like getting frantic like Goofy does, right?
W4lt: I dunno… it’s not realistic.
Scriptwriter 2: And then he throws in some wood chips for fragrant smoke and puts in the ribs and closes the lid. And the smoke comes roiling out. He reads the directions on the rib packaging, they say 30 minutes on the grill and he’s like, no way. He wants to turn the ribs after a minute, or at least check them for blackness, but when he lifts the lid from the barbecue a huge cloud of smoke and steam roils out and envelopes his face and he pulls back and is like, Holy Shit and he smells a smell he hasn’t smelled since he played with fireworks as a kid: singed hair. And Goofy is like, oh shit.
W4lt (just shakes head): mmm.
Scriptwriter 2: He takes the blackened ribs back off the heat. He checks his eyebrows which just crumble. He goes into the bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror and his formerly white beard is brown and crumbles away when he touches it, from a long white beard to a short white beard. See, this is why we need Goofy to have long beard and long hair. Some of the long hair gets singed off too.
W4lt: Yeah, no. It’s not realistic.
Timmy: (sits silently, shaking head)
Scriptwriter 2: What’s not realistic about it? Why does everyone suddenly care about realism in connection with a fuck1ng Goofy cartoon? Goofy is a fuck1ng talking dog fuck1ng married to a human woman!
Timmy: What about Clarabelle the cow?
W4lt: That was old Goofy. Modern Goofy was updated.
Timmy: Why?
Scriptwriter 2: Who the h3LL cares, Timmy? It’s a hilarious script. Goofy. Social panic. Barbecue. Fire. Panic. Series of catastrophes. Hilarious.
W4lt (presses button under desk. Security drag away Scriptwriter 2. W4lt Disn3y shouts at him through the open door): It’s unrealistic! It’s impossible! It could never happen in reality! If that ever happens to someone in real life, cut off my head and freeze it under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride!
(Turns to Timmy). Scriptwriters. (Shakes head)
Timmy: Scriptwriters. (shakes head) Sure, I like Collies, Mr. Disn3y.

The human impersonator

A woman *roughly* my age was walking a little dog.
Is that your crow? She asked.
Technically, it’s a jackdaw, I said.
(I didn’t really say that.)
No, what I said was, Actually, I don’t know who belongs to whom. Why do you ask?
Because it looks like you’re taking him for a walk.
The *jackdaw* had been following me for about a block.
On foot. The other crows do more swooping and flying. The jackdaws walk more, it seems. This one walks most of all.
A couple days later, he caught up with me again, a few blocks away.
I gave him a peanut, he followed me.
He had a comical waddling gait.
He stuck out his chest/belly and sort of waddled from side to side.
I tried to take his picture, but as soon as I held up my phone he turned his back.
I had to bribe him with another peanut, then he let me take a profile shot.
I sent my wife the picture and she said, Is he impersonating you?
I, what, huh?
Are you impersonating me, bird? I asked.
The way I see it, there are three possibilities:

  1. That’s just the way jackdaws walk.
  2. He thought he’d get more peanuts if he acted more like a human, and that’s the way humans look to him.
  3. He really was taking the piss.

Genealogy and ballistics

My wife has developed a keen interest in family history. She has been telling me things about my family, parts of which she has so far traced back to the early 17th century, that I had not known previously.
For example, the reason that I am here today is not because my ancestors were big heroes during the Revolutionary War, but because they were good at running away.
There was a father and two sons. The father was arrested by British military, escaped and built a new house somewhere else because after he ran away they burned down his old house.
The older of the two sons, he was in his twenties, also ran away when he and his 17 year old brother were arrested. He later built a house on the site of the one that had been burned down.
His younger brother does not seem to have escaped, and his branch of the family tree appears to end there.
So basically, I am here because of running.
My uncle, a direct descendant of those guys, was athletic all his life. When we played softball in the field between our houses, he was pretty good. As was his sister. My sister too.
My uncle had a good throwing arm.
For example: Once he was up on a ladder picking pears in the field, and I was down on the ground pestering him. I was a little kid. I don’t remember what I was doing, probably throwing pears up at him, because when he got tired of it he gave me a head start and I dashed across the field to my house.
It was about ten miles, IIRC. Incredibly far, at any rate, for a little kid. Maybe fifty meters. Maybe less. I ran and ran and ran. I started to laugh when I reached the edge of the field, figuring I was safe so far from my uncle up on his ladder.
But in the instant before I ducked under the electric fence to run through the trees into my house, a big rotten pear hit me in the small of the back. It was a perfect shot. It got me right where my pants met my t-shirt. The pear had the right consistency – rotten yet firm enough to survive such a long throw at a velocity so great that half went down my buttcrack, and the other half went up my back all the way to my shoulder blades.
I ran crying to my mother, out of shock more than pain.
My uncle showed up seconds later, explaining and laughing at the same time.
My mother laughed too.
Everybody laughed but me.

This morning I was glad I don’t have a cow

So this morning I was doing the cat-cow asana and like most mornings when I do it one of the cats (Daisy) jumped onto my back and rode me while I did it.

The first rule of peanut club

A man is walking to the store on his lunch break. Because he has run out of peanuts, he takes the only street where the crows don’t know him yet.
Two crows (one hooded, one regular) land in the grass next to the street and watch him expectantly.
Man: Fuck.
Man: This was my secret street, dudes.
Man: You guys are like a block away from your territory. Were you watching from your tree or something?
Man: I’m really sorry, but I’m all out of peanuts today.
Hooded crow: The first rule of Peanut Club is, always have peanuts.

So I bought a bag of peanuts, still in the shell, because that gives the crows something to do, cracking the nuts.
But they were nowhere to be found when I got back.
So I filled my pockets today on my lunch break and walked down their street and they showed up.
I tossed a peanut to the hooded crow, which is about 40% larger than the black crow, at least in this case, and it caught it before it hit the ground.
“Hey, nice catch,” I said.
They got a couple more nuts each, then a different, larger, black crow got a few.
Sometimes I give them more than they can hold at once to see how they solve that. They can hold 2 easy, sometimes 3 with a little time spent arranging the peanuts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one hold 4 at once.
The first two crows opened and ate their nuts on the spot. The larger crow, who might be new to this, carried his peanuts to some scaffolding around a house across the street and ate them there.